Organization: Jewish Communities of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Grant Year: 2021
Project Director: Rabbi Tobie Weisman
Type of Grant: Signature
Grant Amount: $41,000 (1 year)
Jewish Communities of Vermont – To develop a sustainable statewide program that unites the Jewish community through collaborative Jewish education programs focused on a variety of issues, including shmita and the seven-year cycle of renewal and action.
Why did you choose to focus on shmitaand the seven-year cycle of renewal and action?
Shmita is a new topic to many in our Vermont Jewish community and something we thought would resonate with Vermonters with its ties to the land and food production. We felt it was timely that this shmita year coincided with the 7th year of JCVT and our transition to new leadership, the change in the presidency, the significance of the next seven years related to our climate, and other pressing issues such as racial justice and economic fairness. If ever there was a time to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we’re heading, this seemed the right time and shmita seemed a wonderful overarching concept for this kind of reflection, renewal, and recommitment.
What do you hope other similarly sized communities could learn from this initiative?
Our major goal is increased collaboration and inclusivity across Jewish groups and individuals. Small communities always are limited in what they can offer and feel they can never do enough. Especially with the new opportunities for access through Zoom or other technology, there are almost limitless possibilities for sharing experiences and connecting beyond our immediate geographic boundaries.
We’re hopeful that a big lesson for Jewish organizations is that we’re better together and that collaborating will increase participation and affiliation. The symbiosis of offering shared programming and thinking and learning from each other can enhance the work of these organizations and maybe ease some of the enormous workload of Jewish community leaders trying to be everything to everybody in their congregations.
What is your #1 priority in the field of Jewish Education?
Our priority is to increase participation and affiliation. In Vermont there are a lot of folk with some Jewish ancestry, many of whom don’t connect at all with their Jewish heritage (and who may somewhat actively stay away from connecting with anything Jewish). We would love to see more people connect in any way to their Jewish identity and feel part of the larger Jewish community. We hope we can offer multiple entry points for Jewish Vermonters to feel a positive association with their Jewishness.